Parish/Potter – On and Off
9.25.23 by Ryan Masteller
The lack of **^4##*NULL\\\///ZoN3*##^** … er, \\NULL|Z0NE// … eff it, Null Zone activity over the past couple years has had a cumulative effect on my psyche that I simply did not expect: once weaned from Michael Potter’s Athens, Georgia, label since 2021 or so, I found myself super jacked right back in once his band, the Electric Nature, dropped Old World Die Must earlier this year. It was a hit of free-jazz/fusion/noise madness that sped right into the weirdo centers of my brain and pretty much cooked all my synapses till I wasn’t able to respond to anything properly, such was the overload. Sitting on my couch, drooling and glassy-eyed as the title track, taking up the entirety of side B, fizzed its feedback to a close, I breathed a sigh of relief that I had made it through in one piece, clearly frazzled at my lack of preparation for new Null Zone after a layoff.
So I didn’t know if it was a good thing or not that several months separated Old World Die Must and the first new Null Zone cassette-only releases (Old World exists as a vinyl LP co-released with Feeding Tube) to hit the streets, but I was certainly game, and I was pretty sure the melted parts of my brain had cooled and hardened into protective barriers over the rest of the lobes and cortices I was still using – Potter wasn’t going to take me by surprise this time. Fortunately, On and Off, Potter’s new tape as a duo with Ahleuchatistas’ Shane Parish (no stranger to Null Zone), dispenses with the coiled chaos and heads straight to the warm comfort areas where blankets and cushions (or amniotic floating) serve as the perfect accoutrements/venue for experiencing this tape.
Did it turn out I really needed this? Yeah, it absolutely did.
Over two sidelong tracks on this C32, Potter and Parish layer their guitars over each other, generating entire hemispheres of imagination in their primordial playing. The A side, “On and Off,” fulfills every person’s fantasy of what the soundtrack to the actual formation of the Earth over billions of years should sound like. The duo’s electric guitars establish the firmament, a tectonic drone ceaselessly undergirds the elements bubbling and flitting above it, and the sky I’m seeing behind my eyelids fills with smoke and fire before clearing to mountains, lakes, and valleys, the promise of green fields and fresh air a millennium or so away – but that’s not a long time on the Cosmic Calendar! Their proto-proto-proto blues scratches glyphs on the walls of prehistoric caves; it’s truly not weird at all that Potter’s found himself on the same bill as guitar legend Bill Orcutt.
“Here and There” covers side B and showcases Parish and Potter’s acoustic chops, a set recorded a year removed from “On and Off” but a thematic and sonic cousin nonetheless. Again over a reverberating drone, the duo picks riverine melodies through newly cut valleys as animal and plant life spring into being at their passing, drifting into the expansiveness of evolutionary process. The movement and tactility of the guitar interplay is like blood through veins, a vital process of circulation to ensure all parts of the body (including the brain!) are properly nourished. Overlaying the body’s roadmap on the Earth’s contours ties the concept together, a universality of flesh and soil and the source of connection. It’s like a proto-proto-proto folk outline simmering in the mineral baths. Have either of these guys ever played with William Tyler?
So, it is with great relief that I announce, yes: it’s great to have Null Zone back, and it’s great that the label’s back with such a fantastic bang. And hey, guess what? Now that I’ve re-centered myself and primed myself once again for the “anything goes” mentality Potter and pals routinely bring to their releases, I think I could even take on something a little crazier, a little more extreme if something of the sort comes my way… Hey, speaking of, where’s that Serrater tape?